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Upworthy's Growth Hacks


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tl;dr of lessons learned:

1. Don't write about politics. Ain't nobody got time for that.

2. Find story ideas on social media feeds, not other websites. It's easier to highlight something visible that's shared on Facebook. Stay away from text-driven articles -- lean into images and videos.

3. Focus on Facebook, not Twitter. "Twitter is small traffic potatoes compared to Facebook. At the end of the day, Facebook is where the most people spend the vast majority of their time online." Ouch.

4. Write 25 headlines for every article, then pick the best one. "The ethos behind the 25 headlines is, you can have the best piece of content and make the best point ever. But if no one looks at it, the article is a waste. A headline is all about getting the article in front of people."

5. It's ok to trick someone into reading an article IF you know they'll love the content. "If they don't love it, they're not going to share it. Virality is a balance of how good the packaging is and how good the content is."

6. Don't worry about keeping readers on your site. "We want them to view the content, share it, subscribe to it, and go on their way. We figure we'll be able to reach back out to them again."

7. Being first doesn't matter. "We've seen no advantage to jumping on something first. Actually, a lot of our biggest hits have been things that were already circulating around. Topicality matters but newness doesn't."

8. Only write something 1,000,000 people would be happy to learn about. "Make a case that if a million people saw one of our articles, the world would be a better place. That's what we're really focused on -- and it's what's working. Upworthy is anything that sheds light on something that matters in a visual way."

Regarding writing 25 headlines: great headlines are hard to write.

Since Upworthy is just a nice formatting of a video or image, the headline is the only value-add of Upworthy.

The curator filters the headlines down to 4 or 5, and then the editor picks one.

Upworthy got to 6 million uniques pretty much on the backs of two videos: a woman who owns how fat she is and Mitt Romney being uncomfortable around a gay veteran.

Which means that Upworthy is like a variation on BuzzFeed.

Also worth reading: Top 13 most viewed BuzzFeed Posts ever.

And: How BuzzFeed makes viral hits in four easy steps.

 BTW, one of the founders is Peter Koechly, former editor (I think in chief  at The Onion, who then left to join the 2008 obama campaign. I imagine he understands the value of a headline. 

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